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The Kingdom of Childhood

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Kingdom of Childhood

On-line since: 15th November, 2010


The Lectures here printed were given by Rudolf Steiner at Torquay in 1924 in connection with a Summer School at which he had been invited to speak on the subject of “True and False Paths of Spiritual Investigation.” They were given specifically for a small group of teachers or intending teachers, no more than five in number (though some others were allowed to attend), who had resolved to open a school in England based on his work. [This was opened in 1925 as the New School in Streatham. It is now known as Michael Hall and is situated in Forest Row, Sussex.] As always, Rudolf Steiner adapted what he had to say to the character of his special audience, some of whom had little or no experience of teaching. He gives them every possible encouragement, while he points out the magnitude of the task on which they are entering. He stimulates their observation by many practical and homely examples. He shows them how essential it is for a teacher to work upon himself, not merely to use his natural gifts but to transform them, to seek for unsuspected powers in himself, never to become a pedant, but to make ample use of humour and keep his teaching and himself lively and imaginative. But above all he insists on the grave importance of doing everything in the light of a knowledge of the child as a citizen of the spiritual as well as of the earthly world. Many of the ideas which Steiner stressed forty years ago have since appeared — in modified forms — in the general practice of education. But there is no other form of education which affirms the existence of the eternal being of the child in the spiritual world before birth, which regards childhood as a gradual process of incarnation, and which sees all physical processes as the result of spiritual powers. This is the unique core of an anthroposophical education, and Steiner reminds the teachers that they must never forget it or represent the methods developed in his schools apart from these central truths.

The reader of these lectures must bear in mind that in giving them Steiner assumed in his hearers some fundamental knowledge of that Spiritual Science of Man which it had been his life's work to establish. Some of his statements may therefore appear to have a somewhat dogmatic flavour to the new reader who does not know what careful research and depth of study lie behind them. In general, however, the lectures are concerned with practical examples, which give a lively picture of the kind of teaching Steiner wished to prevail in his schools. He himself described these particular lectures as “aphoristic,” and sometimes they seem to treat in quick succession an almost bewildering number of subjects. But on reflection it will be found that they return again and again to a few central themes: the need for observation in the teacher: the dangers of stressing the intellect and handling the abstraction before the age of adolescence: the crying need in childhood for the concrete and pictorial: the education of the soul through wonder and reverence: the difference it makes to life when imagination first grasps the whole, and the part comes later in its proper relation: yet at the same time the need for the child to be practical himself and to understand the practical work of the world around him.

Steiner himself distinguished sharply between the styles appropriate to the written and the spoken word. Had he been able to revise these lectures as a book he would no doubt have transformed them radically. As this was not possible, it has seemed best to keep in the translation the easy and colloquial style of the original (and unrevised) typescript. The lectures should be read as talks given to an intimate group.

It is one of the unhappy shifts of emphasis in the modern age that education is not now so much regarded as the art of making a man what he should be as the means of securing survival in a technological age. Steiner rejoiced in technology. Without knowing the technical processes by which you live, he said, you cannot even become a social human being. But neither can you become a social human being (perhaps not even a human being at all) unless you learn to rejoice in the great productions of human genius in literature and the arts, and in the whole story of man's development on the earth. There is therefore no differentiation between Humanities and Sciences in a Steiner School; children of varying intellectual abilities study both together as a true preparation for life.

The last lecture in this series consists of questions and answers, and reveals how alive Steiner was to the difference of national character and practice, while firmly asserting the universal shape of the child's development. He even praises the English money system of twelve and twenties (which so many educators — and others — would like to see abolished) as leading to a far more mobile kind of thinking than a rigid decimal numeration.

How many questions the teachers who were present at these lectures would now like to put to Rudolf Steiner, after the experience of the intervening years! Perhaps it is as difficult to put the right question as to find the right answer. These lectures may well help the reader to put new and truer questions to the genius of education.


Last Modified: 24-Apr-2021
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